The Washington County varsity volleyball team is coming off a 14-14 season that saw the Commanderettes hit high gear late in the year, and they’re looking to build off that entering the 2012 campaign.
The Commanderettes started last season against tough competition and stumbled out of the gate, dropping their first five games. They hit a rhythm by midseason, however, and reeled off seven-straight victories to end the regular season, before being eliminated from the 19th District tournament by Bethlehem.
“It showed us that we can go on a run against some pretty good teams,” said junior Maddie Abell. “It gives us motivation to keep it going this year.”
“It’s a really good sign,” added head coach Anne Mudd. “We only lost three seniors, so I feel like we’ve got a strong team coming back. I do feel like we’re going to be a little stronger than last year, and our camp this year was probably the best camp we’ve ever had.”
The Commanderettes return many of the biggest pieces from last year’s team, including six seniors, almost all of which have been playing together since the seventh grade. Knowing what to expect from the senior class, Mudd said the biggest surprises have been the players that are expected to take on an expanded role this season.
“I am so impressed with Maddie Abell,” Mudd said. “I have never seen her play like she played at camp this summer. At the Bluegrass State Games she was where she was supposed to be every single time and she cleaned up the floor.”
Mudd also said sophomore Halie Browning has shown that she’s ready to make the jump to varsity.
“She’s green, but she’s got volleyball knowledge,” Mudd said. “This summer, she has really come on, and she works so hard. She’s one of the players who has surprised me the most and I think she’s surprising herself too.”
As the Commanderettes look to unseat Bethlehem as 19th District champions, there are a couple of areas that could set WC apart from their rivals.
“We’re very strong with serving and it hasn’t been that way for a while,” Mudd said. “I think our back-row passing is very strong, and when we can get the ball up front to (junior) Morgan (Mann), she takes care of it.”
Mudd noted the strides Bardstown took last season, and said Thomas Nelson brings an unknown element to this year’ district race, but she expects her team to be in the conversation for a district title come October.
“I think we’ll be right there (at the top of the district),” she said. “Nelson County will have a very good team and I look for them to give us a run for our money, and of course, Bethlehem always has a scrappy team that keeps the ball in play.”
Playing in one of the toughest districts -- and regions -- in the state can have its challenges, but senior Lee Ann Abell said it’s been a learning process for the Commanderettes.
“We learned we have to get rid of silly mistakes, keep our fundamentals in line and always get our passes going forward,” she said.
Tough local competition already proved to be beneficial last season, when the Commanderettes traveled to LaRue County and Bowling Green to compete in tournaments, posting an 8-3 record over the two events against tough competition. They’ll be able to try their hand in tournament play again this season with the first-annual Smash tournament in Anderson County on Sept. 7-8. They’ll also meet Green County in the first round of the 5th Region All-A Classic on Aug. 18 at Fort Knox.
WC opened its season on Tuesday after press time at home against Green County, and will also host West Jessamine on Thursday before traveling to Thomas Nelson High School on Monday for their first meeting with their newest district rivals.